Earlier, I suggested that the Hoffman Scandal is the single best piece of evidence against the veracity of the Mormon faith (in its particular LDS form). JoAnna asks,
Fascinating post. I wonder how Mormon apologists deal with the 1981 forgery scandal?
I’m not sure. To be honest, I discovered it from (I believe) the History Channel, and most of the reading I’ve done on it has been through secular news articles. The whole Hoffman Scandal was much bigger than just this attempted sale to President Hinckley. In fact, Hoffman’s currently in jail for murder after blowing two people up. It may be that given the complexity of the case, the shadiness of Hoffman’s character, and the fact that the documents turned out to be forgeries allows some LDSers to write the whole thing off.
But here’s some extra info for why they shouldn’t. A Time article from 1981, written when they thought the document was authentic, tells us of the contents:
One of the documents, dated Jan. 17, 1844, contained a text of Smith’s blessing, including these crucial words: “… the anointing of the progenitor shall be upon the head of my son, and his seed after him, from generation to generation. For he shall be my successor to the Presidency of the High Priesthood: a Seer, and a Revelator, and a Prophet, unto the Church; which appointment belongeth to him by blessing, and also by right . . .”
In other words, if this document were true, Brigham Young would be a usurper, and his entire line – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – illegitimate. Joseph Smith, the Muhammad of Mormonism, had explicitly ordained Joe III to be successor, not Brigham Young.
So how did the LDS Church respond, when faced with this fact? Remember now, this is while the document is still assumed authentic (even by the LDS First Presidency), and they’re being questioned simply on what this means for them theologically, not why they tried to cover it up. In response,
Earl Olson, assistant managing director of the Mormons’ historical department, says that the discovery requires little or no ” re-evaluation” of how the 4.7 million-member church pick its leaders. In other words the rival groups probably their will continue to go their seperate ways.
So here the LDS Church thinks it’s been totally and completely debunked, that the claim to valid lineage from Joseph Smith has been decisively severed, and their response? Eh. Doesn’t matter. Perhaps this answers your question, JoAnna?
EDIT: JoAnna provides some great info in the combox:
I was curious about the LDS response, and did some Googling. Hinkley’s explanation is here. Note that this was written prior to the forgery being discovered, although there is an editor’s note to that effect. It’s an interesting take; the two main points being (a) it was a blessing and not an ordination, which JSIII allegedly claimed as well; and (b) BY apparently looked and sounded like Joseph Smith, so obviously he was the real heir.It doesn’t begin to address the question of why Hinkley, being a genuine prophet of God, didn’t know from the first that it was a forgery — the strongest point of your argument. Also, the claim is that the document was made public immediately and subsequently gifted to the RLDS due to it’s “sentimental value.” No mention of trying to have it destroyed, etc.
I think that the argument for (a) is weakened by one serious fact: Hoffman, an anti-LDS forger, designed what he thought would be the most slam-dunk piece of evidence for an ordination (or at least a clear note of succession). The specific language, “For he shall be my successor” is either prescriptive or prophetic: that is, he’s either saying, “I am making him my successor” or he’s predicting, “he will become my successor.”
So let’s take Hinckley’s argument: Joseph Smith, Jr., isn’t ordaining Joe III; it’s not a prescription. In that case, it’s a prophesy (not, mind you, a vague blessing, since it contains specific information about the future, not a “may the wind always be at your back” blessing formula). And of course, a prophesy which the LDS Church thinks that he got wrong. So it sounds very much like, instead of simply undermining the LDS claim to lineage, it undermines Joseph Smith’s claim to be a prophet.